I had an infatuation with Rampage growing up, first discovering it on the ZX Spectrum at a friend’s house before renting out the surprisingly slick Master System version, and then later discovering the excellent Lynx iteration – which added a new character. The focus on destroying a city instead of protecting it was novel for the time, and still rather appealing today.
But when Midway dusted off Rampage for a revival in the late ‘90s, I couldn’t even muster a passing fancy. Middling review scores – at least from the UK gaming press – along with the £30+ price tags (£49.99 on N64!) made it an easy pass.
Skip forward to 2022, and this spiritual successor (of sorts) has been on my radar for a while. I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder. That, and the fact that it’s an inexpensive digital download.
I should note that Terror of Hemasaurus isn’t a strait-laced homage. It shares the focus on destruction, but feels more contemporary, with a 1-4 player story mode that’s both politically charged and self-referencing. The majority of stages scroll from left to right, usually taking just under five minutes each to complete, and there’s some fun physics-based tech to gorge yourself on. Every building is formed from small square sprites that become dislodged, causing buildings to topple and explode. Targeting a skyscraper’s weak point to make it fall onto smaller buildings is both satisfying and quite a spectacle, backed further by buckets of gore.
There’s lots of swearing too, which – amazingly – doesn’t come across as phoned-in or a poor attempt at being edgy. If you ever find yourself in the presence of a colossal monster, you’re likely to drop a few ‘f bombs’ too. Comical cut-scenes also take place between stages, mocking certain individuals often in the public’s eye.
Playing as one of four creatures freed from melting ice caps (thanks, global warming!) the combat system has just enough tact to make it engaging, with our monstrous stars able to grab, throw, kick, punch, and butt slam. New threats, such as SWAT vans and rocket troopers, are gradually introduced and these can be often used to your advantage. Cars can be kicked into buildings, citizens thrown into helicopter blades, while blimps are large enough to cling onto. My thumbs are grateful that the attack button can be held down to unleash a barrage of punches.
Each stage has a goal, unsurprisingly often centred around destruction. A mission to destroy only red buildings required a couple of retries, but other than that, I only died once during the game’s 2–3-hour runtime. Every citizen eaten restores health, and because the screen is often swarming with crunchy humans, there’s a constant supply of health pick-ups. If you don’t deal with rocket infantry quickly you may end up low on health, but other than that, this is a pretty forgiving experience.
Once the ending credits roll there’s the Endless Mode to tackle, with its gradually increasing quota of enemy types. While a little repetitive – you’re simply asked to destroy 75% of each city – this mode is quite time-consuming, with a handful of achievements tied to it. The one for reaching wave 100 will take a long time to acquire, with the difficulty briskly rising around wave 20. This is also a good place to experiment with the four characters, each having their own super move.
One of Terror of Hemasaurus‘ cut-scenes sees aliens arrive on earth to share solar power technology, hoping that this will lessen global warming. After being told that we have solar power already yet still rely on fossil fuels, said alien begins a murderous rampage, fuelled by mankind’s stupidity. If this style of humour aligns with your own, it’s likely that you’ll find this highly entertaining. Unlike the King of Monsters himself, this is short but sweet.
Loren Lemcke’s Terror of Hemasaurus is out now on PS4 and Xbox One. It first launched on PC. A Switch version is due in January.